Analyzing the Ground Game: Chris Weidman

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

UG Blogger Casey Hartsfield breaks down the ground game of ‘The All American’ Chris Weidman, who fights Mark Munoz this Wednesday at UFC on FUEL 4.

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Just three years inot his MMA career, Chris ‘The All American’ Weidman has already broken into the top ten of the UFC Middleweight division. His meteoric rise has been characterized by top-notch wrestling, crafty Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and a brutal pace.

Weidman transferred to Hofstra University where he became a two time All-American, placing third at the NCAA tournament his final year. After graduating from Hofstra, Weidman made his way to the Serra-Longo Fight Team, where he has honed his grappling abilities under the instruction of Matt Serra. Currently Weidman holds the rank of Purple Belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Weidman imposes his grappling will upon his opponents, whether by use of his wrestling to bring the fight to the mat, or his ever-developing arsenal of submissions.

Joining the UFC ranks only a year ago, Weidman has made his way through the division with relative ease, earning some spectacular finishes along the way. Weidman has a tenacity about his grappling that is uncommon in the Middleweight division. Now, with an opportunity to defeat Mark Munoz, Weidman could lay his claim to a title shot.

In this article we will examine the grappling abilities that landed Weidman a contenders fight with Mark Munoz this Wednesday.

The devices of success we will review:


Weidman ducks right under the jab of Sakara, forcing Sakara to overextend. There is virtually no telegraphing of the shot. As soon as Weidman cups his hands around Sakara’s legs he is already cutting the angle, using his head to guide the shot. One interesting thing to note about the takedown is Weidman actually turns this into a trip right at the end. Weidman’s left leg after the first step into the takedown sweeps across to Sakara’s opposite side leg, a brilliant technique that forces the opponent to fall to his side, allowing Weidman to pass right into side control.

Against Demian Maia, Weidman has a ‘over under’ position (one over hook, one under hook), but his hands are locked. This hand position provides far more leverage, and halts a sprawl attempt, when completing the trip on Maia. Notice how Weidman takes a step to the right, and drags Maia over his right knee. Maia’s leg buckles, while Weidman uses his head to place him. The use of head and neck are vital to any trip or takedown. The simple truth is, where ever the head goes the body will follow, and this trip corroborates that statement.

As Weidman has progressed in the UFC he has become more comfortable, allowing him really let lose and implement his game. Tom Lawlor is a great wrestler, and Weidman catches him with a overhand right fake into the takedown. When Weidman shoots in he starts with the single, transitioning right to the double. The angle being cut here is subtle, but he makes the turn. Weidman starts driving off to the left, then hits a knee tap (cutting the leg at the knee collapsing it), then dives to the right. Lawlor’s legs are cut right out from under him. Again the head of Weidman plays a critical role, placing Lawlor exactly where his head puts it. One small thing that is a bit different than many fighters, and specifically wrestlers, is the neck’s posture. When shooting in Weidman drives with his forehead, not the top of his head like so many others, avoiding the guillotine.

Sakara attempts to defend the jab Weidman tossed at him, but gets a nasty shot in on his left leg. Weidman doesn’t telegraph at all here using the momentum from the jab, and keeping his eyes up, not wandering to Sakara’s leg. Weidman glides right into this shot. Once Weidman has the back of the leg cupped, and his head/neck tight he spins 180 degrees, removing any memory of balance Sakara had. As soon as the two men hit the mat Weidman looks directly to the pass, forcing Sakara’s left knee down, and ending up in half-guard.

One of the more diverse trips/take downs seen in a while, is executed  by Weidman against Jess Bongfeldt. The double underhooks are locked in by Weidman posturing Bongfeldt up to weaken his balance, and set up the trip (the taller the building the easier it falls) with one step of his left leg, placing it behind Bongfeldt’s right leg. After that the defined lines of the technique begin to blur, as Weidman attempts what looks like a few different approaches to a throw. First Weidman sets up a trip, but moves perpendicular to Bongfeldt. Then Weidman turns and throws him backwards almost like a souplesse, but has motion resembling a takedown. Either way he completes the move, but not without some resistance at the end. When the two men land, Weidman does not get him all the way over. So with the underhook Weidman kept from the throw, he rolls into Bonglfeldt, driving down, and  causing him to roll to his back. When an opponent has the back and you have the underhook, knowing how to roll through is vital. Using the roll will make the difference between ending up in dominant position, or getting the back taken. The key is to pressure with the shoulder. Notice Weidman digs his shoulder into Bongfeldt, and then drives.


When searching for the pass, both men know the top one is looking for the pass, so misdirection is key to moving to a dominant position. Weidman has solid control of the legs, he elevates them, and pulls them back, throwing the over hand right. Doing these techniques in unison keep Bongfeldt defending the last one, while Weidman jumps to side control. Bongfeldt for a moment gets his right knee up  somewhat defending; Weidman slowly works it down, as he stays tight to the body. While keeping his head and neck tight to Bongfeldt’s body, Weidman uses his left arm to drive down and hip over the knee. Then with his right arm, Weidman overhooks Bongfeldt’s legs, moving deeper into side control.

This is a beautiful pass by Weidman. The hip over motion is dead on. Weidman lands in side control, and with his left arm pushes back Bongfeldt’s left leg. Bongfeldt is no lame duck, and attempts to get his other knee in. Weidman responds with a fantastic use of his right arm not pushing down the knee, but rather putting it in the crease of the hip and driving it back to give himself space. Also with his left hand while hes passing he throws it around the neck (used for pinning in wrestling) for control. Weidman stays nice and heavy, maintaining chest to chest nearly the entire time and driving his head into Bongfeldt’s body.

This is my favorite example of great controlling technique by Weidman to get the pass. Weidman came in for the single leg, but Lawlor defended well and they ended up on the cage. With his right hand Weidman pulls at the left ankle of Lawlor, then brings his left arm around to do the same. Once this left arm is in place he moves his right hand to Lawlor’s left kneea, nd shuffles to the right (to create a better angle), yanking him from the cage. When the pass to side control is complete, Weidman still holds on for a bit making sure he is squared away. That is so important in grappling. Many guys will jump from one thing to another which is great, but when your opponent is defending well, over emphasizing some techniques to maintain control is very important. Holding the ankle keeps Lawlor from bringing in his left knee and creating space. Small nuances like this make all the difference in the cage.


When Weidman gets the Darse locked in, he rolls through, and actually misses hooking the leg, which makes it far easier to defend. Lawlor get his legs back knowing that would keep him alive. Weidman realizes while squeezing that Lawlor was not going out from where he presently was, and pushes off the fence hooking Lawlor’s right leg with his left. The reason for this is leverage. The Darse choke is incredibly hard to finish from the headlock position, as the arm is not cutting off circulation. When the leg is thrown over, torque increases, pulling the arm up deeper into the neck, and forcing the head down.

One of the rarer submissions is the standing guillotine. Very few men have been able to hit this submission on such a big stage as the UFC. Weidman defends a takedown from Bongfeldt, immediately locking the hands down. There are a few pivotal motions Weidman goes through to finish this guillotine with ease. Once the hands clasp, Weidman raises his his forearm rather than yanking. This maintains the guillotine rather than turning it into a crank. As Weidman pulls back on the neck, he points his elbow down the floor causing Bongfeldt’s head to go horizontal.

Whether you like Chris Weidman is all a matter of opinion, but throughout his short career, Weidman has made great strides in his MMA game, setting him up for UFC contendership. This Wednesday at UFC on fuel Weidman will  take on Mark Munoz a feat for any man. Munoz is an NCAA Division 1 Wrestling Champion, and a heavy handed striker; Weidman will have his hands full. In his own right Weidman is a great Wrestler, and in the cage accolades don’t always determine who gets the take-down (ie: Jon Jones). This will be an incredible fight for all who are interested in a contest between two of the best middleweights in recent memory.